Impatiens niamniamensis, common name Congo cockatoo or Parrot Impatiens, is a species of flowering plant in the family Balsaminaceae. It comes from tropical Africa and can be found from Cameroon through central and East Africa, up to Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola. It grows in moist and shaded bushlands, at an elevation of 350–2,400 metres above sea level.
Impatiens niamniamensis grows about 60–90 centimetres long. This evergreen, perennial species has an erect, succulent, brown stem resembling wood. Leaves are simple, ovate-oblong or elliptical, spirally arranged, about 10 cm long. This plant produces bright and colourful bird-shaped flowers (hence the common name Congo cockatoo) with a long, curled nectar spur. These unusual flowers are usually scarlet red and yellow and can reach a length of about 3.5 centimetres. Fruits are explosive capsules of about 14–16 mm.
These plants can tolerate temperatures as low as about 2˚C, but they won’t survive even a light frost. Temperatures of 7˚C and above are ideal for this tender perennial. It prefers a location in full shade, especially if you live in a warm, sunny climate. Although the plant will grow in partial sunlight in a cool climate, it won’t tolerate bright sunlight or hot summers. The plant performs best in rich soil, so dig in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Water the plant regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but never soggy. As a general rule, one weekly watering is sufficient unless the weather is hot, but always water immediately if the foliage begins to look wilted.
A layer of bark chips or other organic mulch keeps the roots moist and cool. Pinch the growing tips of newly planted to encourage full, bushy growth. Cut the plant back by about 10-15 cm if it begins to look tired and leggy in midsummer. Fertilise the plant twice during the growing season, using a general purpose liquid or dry fertiliser. Don’t overfeed because too much fertiliser creates a full, bushy plant at the expense of blooms. Always water immediately because fertiliser may scorch the roots.
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